A man with a Harris Hawk perched on his arm.
The author enjoying a close enounter of the raptor kind on holiday.

Newsletters and other decades-long overnight success stories

Can a format that's been around since the last century truly be something new?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I'm back after a very pleasant couple of weeks largely away from digital devices, and feeling so much better for it. More on that later on, should you care, because I have a couple of things I want to draw your attention to first:

One man on a podcast

Just before I scurried away on my holiday, Charlotte Henry was kind enough to invite me on her podcast to discuss Facebook's break-up with journalism, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago here.

You can enjoy me in audio format here:

Facebook And News Breakup. Again.
Listen now (38 min) | Will Facebook’s move away from news be permanent this time?

It was an interesting chat, which strayed into talking about Apple News+, which Charlotte went on to explore in another post:

What’s Next For Apple News?
Big tech is trying to sort its relationships with publishers.

Inkcap Journal: a mini niche media business in development

I'm one of the judges of the Press Gazette Future of Media awards this year. Among the categories I'm judging is the newsletter of the year, and an entry we shortlisted has been profiled by the team:

How nature newsletter Inkcap Journal nurtured a 70% open rate
Long-form nature publication Inkcap Journal sprouted in response to a lack of opportunities for environmental feature writing in the UK compared to the US.

If you're interested in nature and the environment, Inkcap Journal is a great subscribe. (It's run on Ghost, just like this site.)

I was initially disappointed to see the FT's Stephen Bush appear to have a pop at it in a poorly worded tweet, which he then deleted. I'm a great admirer of both Inkcap and Stephen's work, so it's not pleasant to see them apparently at odds…

To his credit, Stephen realised that he'd worded the tweet badly, deleted it, and tried again to make the point rather clearer. Here's the revised version:

He actually explained his point better in a reply to the now-deleted tweet, though:

And, well, he has a point, doesn't he? My judging notes for another category in the awards actually contain the phrase “the late 2000s called, they want their innovation strategy back”. One of the reasons that Inkcap Journal made the shortlist was that it's clearly a nascent niche media business that is successfully persuading people to part with their cash, with no major company or high-profile online presence to use as a launchpad.

It is literally a future of media being created, and so makes perfect sense in the context of the awards.

But it's worth also remembering that email newsletters are over three decades old at this point. In the late 90s and early 2000s, the business magazine I worked for at the time was getting a large chunk of its traffic from the two daily newsletters it sent out.

This is a regenerating format, not a new one…

Digital is no longer anything new. We have well over a quarter of a century of doing things in online formats, and some early lessons learned still have value. Treating everything as new and exciting all the time tends to play down the role of experience, iteration and a stubborn adherence to quality in building lasting, profitable digital products.

The Personal Bit

I'm a much more chilled person than I was when I last put finger to keyboard.

I've just been on an enforced digital detox for the past couple of weeks, which was the perfect antidote to a hectic late spring and early summer. My wife has an uncanny ability to pick campsites with little to no connectivity (notional wifi that doesn't actually work, no mobile phone signal to speak of…). While it's stressful at first, it soon becomes something of a balm to the soul.  

Even though we're back home, work's going to be a bit irregular for the next few weeks. As the self-employed half of a couple with primary-school age children, I'm shouldering the majority of the childcare until the schools go back.

However, I have some news to share shortly which will change that dynamic a little by next summer, if all goes to plan. But more on that in a future post…

When you discover that a neighbouring town to your home has apparently moved to the Isle of Wight. 
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.